KANSAS CITY — In April 2008 General Michael Hayden, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency, delivered the Landon Lecture at Kansas State University. In his presentation, Mr. Hayden outlined three trends he said his agency viewed as potential challenges to the national security of the United States. Issue No. 1 – Demographics.
“Today, there are about 6.7 billion people sharing our planet,” he said. “By mid-century, the best estimates point to a world population of more than 9 billion. Most of that growth will occur in countries least able to sustain it, a situation that will likely fuel instability and extremism, both in those areas and beyond.
“Many poor, already fragile states —where governance is difficult today — will grow rapidly. In Afghanistan, Liberia, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the population is expected to triple by mid- century. The number of people in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Yemen will more than double. Furthermore, all of those countries will have large concentrations of young people. If their basic freedoms and basic needs — food, housing, education, employment, and so on — are not met, they could be easily attracted to violence, civil unrest, or extremism.”
Mr. Hayden’s comments made the issue of global food security not only a humanitarian issue but a national security issue. That combination has prompted more parties to become involved in the search for solutions to how to feed the world’s growing population, most notably those people in parts of the world where food production is limited.
On May 14, the military advisory board to The CNA Corp., Alexandria, Va., a nonprofit research firm, released a report outlining the national security threat climate change poses to the United States and regions around the world.
“In the national and international security environment, climate change threatens to add new hostile and stressing factors,” the CAN report said. “On the simplest level, it has the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond what we see today. The consequences will likely foster political instability where social demands exceed the capacity of governments to cope.”Combine the effects of climate change with the changes in demographics forecast to occur in the coming decades and the challenges before society are immense. The food and beverage industry has done an excellent job developing technologies to expand food production, and the industry is making progress adopting sustainable practices to reduce its carbon footprint. More needs to be done, but the steps currently being taken throughout the industry offer a positive view for its future.